Musical Monday: Start Cheering (1938)

It’s no secret that the Hollywood Comet loves musicals.
In 2010, I revealed I had seen 400 movie musicals over the course of eight years. Now that number is over 600. To celebrate and share this musical love, here is my weekly feature about musicals.

This week’s musical:
Start Cheering (1938) – Musical #665

start cheering

Columbia Pictures

Albert S. Rogell

Charles Starrett, Jimmy Durante, Walter Connolly, Joan Perry, Craig E. Earle (billed as Professor Quiz), Gertrude Niesen, Raymond Walburn, The Three Stooges, Broderick Crawford, Hal Le Roy, Ernest Truex, Virginia Dale, Chaz Chase, Minerva Urecal
Themselves: Jimmy Wallington, Louis Prima and His Band,

Movie star Ted Crosley (Starrett) decides he’s done with films and wants to enroll in college, trying to keep the university a secret to avoid publicity. Unfortunately, Hollywood executives follow Ted and make his collegiate experience a publicity stunt, which doesn’t make Ted popular with the rest of the students.

• Craig Earle, plays Professor Quiz, which is the same character he assumes during a question and answer CBS trivia radio show.
• Working title was “College Follies of 1938”
• Based on the short story “College Hero” by Corey Ford in The Saturday Evening Post, which was published Sept. 15, 1934.
• Robert Paige dubbed the singing voice of Charles Starrett
• Second film of Broderick Crawford.

start cheering2

• The dance number “Rockin’ the Town”
• Jimmy Durante

Notable Songs:
• “When I Strut Away in My Cutaway” performed by Jimmy Durante
• “Rockin’ the Town” performed by Gertrude Niesen with Johnny Green and His Orchestra
• “My Heaven on Earth” performed by Gertrude Niesen
• “Start Cheering” performed by Gertrude Niesen

start cheering3

My review:
Singing, dancing, barely studying or going to class, and falling in love. Wouldn’t it be great if college life was really like that? That’s how it is in 1930s collegiate films like START CHEERING (1938) at least.

START CHEERING is pure nonsense, but at least it’s a fairly good time.

The story tells of a Hollywood star, Ted Crosley (Starrett) who is sick of acting in films and playing a college hero on-screen. So, he wants to enroll in college to be a collegiate co-ed in real life, where he will join a fraternity and play football in the uncomplicated life of a student … or so he thinks. Despite Ted’s efforts to keep quiet where his academic career will take place, movie executives figure out where he’s headed and turn his college career into a media circus. While some of the student body enjoy the attention their school gets, the big man on campus Biff Gordon (Crawford), takes a dislike to Ted and tries to get rid of him … especially after Biff’s girl, Jean Worthington (Perry), takes a liking to Ted.

While he isn’t mentioned in the plot summary, this is really Jimmy Durante’s film, who plays the assistant to Ted Crosley’s manager (Walter Connolly). Durante is really the true star of this film. Durante has the funniest lines, as he often flubs his vocabulary, and the most memorable song: “When I Strut Away in My Cutaway.” He is sincerely funny in this film.

Our star, Robert Starrett is adequate but has a forgettable face. He looks like other actors but I can’t quite put my finger on who he reminds me of. Starrett’s singing voice is dubbed, but I felt it matched him fairly well. Leading lady Joan Perry is equally pleasant but not memorable. She looks like a mix of Rosemary Lane and Jane Bryan.

An interesting aspect of START CHEERING are some of the specialty acts in the film. Vaudevillian Chaz Chase is featured; whose shtick is eating everything from lit matches to paper. Then there is Professor Quiz asking trivia questions, which is similar to the format of his Q&A trivia radio program. Fancy footwork tap dance Hal Le Roy also performs. And of course, the Three Stooges make an appearance.

Overall, START CHEERING is entertaining, ridiculous and silly froth. And gee does it give you unrealistic expectations of what a school dance will be like. But overall, this is a good time and you will leave humming about strutting away in your cutaway.

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